Monday, August 25, 2014

Black-Hawk Breeding Success in Utah

I'm posting today as a follow-up to a post I shared three months ago (May) when I discovered an active Common Black-Hawk nest in southwestern Utah. You can view that original post by clicking here.

My wife and I were at the tail end of a road trip to three national parks this past weekend and stayed in a hotel in St George, Utah.  I decided to get up early Saturday morning to drive out and check on the nest site. It was my first time back to the area since discovering the nest and I had to make at least one attempt to satisfy my curiosity about whether or not the hawks were successful in breeding. I had shared the location with wildlife officials so they could monitor the nest site. I sent emails on occasion to get updates, but I never got a confirmation that the hawks were successful breeders.

I had often thought about the pair of hawks over the past few months and Saturday presented a short window of opportunity for me. I knew their habits for feeding from my previous observations so I checked those locations at a specific time of day. It took less than 20 minutes to get my first look at an adult bird. I heard what I thought was a Spotted Sandpiper calling from a secluded location north of the adult hawk and ignored it. However, two minutes after walking away from the scene I slowly recalled the sound to my mind and it dawned on me that I was hearing a second Black-Hawk, not a Spotted Sandpiper. I backtracked to the location and kept my cover while creeping through young aspen and willow trees toward the calling bird.

Moments later I was enjoying my first observation of a juvenile Common Black-Hawk. It was proof of successful Black-Hawk breeding in Washington County, Utah. I can't express how delighted I was to see that bird. It looked just like I expected, just like the images I had studied and dreamed of seeing someday. The location of the bird's perch was fully shaded since the early morning sun was still behind a large hill when I captured the image below. Lighting wasn't ideal for capturing details, but I'm pleased to have this image to remember that unique experience and moment in time.

Juvenile Common Black-Hawk #1 in Washington County, UT
Before I knew it I heard and then saw two juveniles at the same time. I'm fairly certain I heard a third one calling farther north of the two, but I can't rule out that it might have been an adult. The second bird was farther from me, but I did get a super-cropped image for documentation purposes.

Juvenile Common Black-Hawk #2 in Washington County, UT
I hope these young birds continue to thrive and return as adults to increase the population of nesting Common Black-Hawks in southwestern Utah. They may become and produce beautiful hawks like their parent below. That would be awesome to witness.

Adult Common Black-Hawk in Washington County, UT
Raised at Least Two Juveniles the Summer of 2014

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